Co-op to boost British meat credentials

The Co-operative Food has committed to sourcing all its own-brand meat from British farmers as part of a £1.5bn initiative announced today (5 December).

The three-year commitment to support and celebrate British food sees the retailer pledge to source British products over and above alternatives for its own-brand meat, poultry, produce and dairy products.

With the exception of New Zealand lamb and Danish bacon, all own-brand meat will be British, including its chilled ready meals, pie and sandwiches, with the exception of continental varieties including ingredients such as chorizo.

While a spokesperson for The Co-op admitted that the retailer was currently sourcing more or less 100% British meat anyway, he said that the three-year campaign would see the retailer try to make more of its stance to support British food, in terms of its marketing, promoting this aspect more to customers.

Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss has lent her support to the commitment, saying it was a “fantastic vote of confidence for the UK food and drink industry”.

Steve Murrells, The Co-operative Food’s retail chief executive, said: “Trust in retailers has been dented in recent years and we hope our openness about where we source our meat, poultry and produce will encourage more retailers to follow suit.

“Shoppers want to know about the origin of their products and if supermarkets import meat for use in products, it is important that, as well as being identified on product labelling, in-store marketing should not seek to unwittingly mislead.”

Research for the The Co-op’s UK sourcing report, Born and Bred, revealed that 73% of customers had more confidence in British-sourced food, with 86% feeling it was more traceable.

Of the food or products shoppers most wanted to be British, fresh meat came top with 72%, while 33% were keen that frozen meat was sourced from Britain, and 29% wanted the same from ready meals.

“These figures show shoppers want to buy more British – we’re supporting this by improving country-of-origin labelling, which will be mandatory for lamb, pork, poultry and goat meat from April next year,” added Truss.

The Co-op said that, in 2014, it expected to have invested a total of £350m in sourcing British meat for its fresh and prepared products: £54m on bacon, pork and sausage; £123m on chicken; £111m on beef; £6.5m on lamb; £44m on cooked meat; and £13m on meat ingredients
.

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